Residential child care background checks advance

A bill that would require residential child care workers to submit to a new federally mandated background check advanced from general file April 23.

Sen. Sara Howard
Sen. Sara Howard

LB460, sponsored by the Health and Human Services Committee, would mandate that any adult employed at a residential child-caring agency pay for fingerprinting and a national criminal history record information check at least once every five years. An employee also would be checked against national and state sex offender registries, state criminal registries and state child abuse and neglect registries.

Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, chairperson of the committee, said that without LB460 the state would lose $39 million in federal funding.

“Not to be really dramatic, but we’ll lose all our [Title] IV-E funding; [it] is how we pay for child welfare,” Howard said.

A committee amendment, adopted 39-0, added provisions contained in LB341, introduced by Sen. John Arch of La Vista. Currently, Nebraskans who qualify for child care subsidies become eligible for transitional child care assistance if their income exceeds 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

The amendment would allow families to continue to receive transitional child care if their income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, as long as the family’s income does not exceed 85 percent of the Nebraska median income for a family of the same size. It also would eliminate the program’s 24-month eligibility limit.

Arch said the amendment would ease the “cliff effect”—when a person or family receives a pay raise sufficient to put them above the income limit and results in a loss of benefits. The amendment also would bring Nebraska into compliance with federal law, he said.

“Under the federal law, states are required to provide families receiving child care subsidies a gradual phase out if the family income is increased,” Arch said. “This allows for greater stability as the family moves toward self-sufficiency.”

The committee amendment also added the background check provisions of LB459, introduced by Howard, that cover child care providers. Howard said Nebraska currently is out of compliance with a federal law that took effect in September, which allows the federal government to withhold some child care block-grant funds.

The provisions would require all prospective child care staff members to submit to a criminal history record check prior to employment, beginning Sept. 1, 2019. Child care staff currently employed would have until Sept. 1, 2021.

“If we continue to be out of compliance we risk a 5-percent penalty, which means we’d have to pay back about $2.5 million dollars,” Howard said.

Following adoption of a technical amendment, lawmakers voted 38-0 to advance LB460 to select file.

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